2024 NBIGP: Hobbs Kessler Beats Jake Wightman, Noah Lyles Makes Statement, & Elle St. Pierre Is Back

The 20-year-old Kessler took down the 2022 world champ in Wightman's first race in a year

BOSTON – Indoor track is back! The stars were out on Sunday evening, and as an Olympic year kicks off (179 days to go!), the 2024 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix provided a few juicy storylines to follow on the road to Paris.

For the third year in a row, triple world champion Noah Lyles posted a statement win in the men’s 60-meter dash, running a big 6.44 pb (previous best: 6.51) to edge Jamaica’s Ackeem Blake. Twenty-year-old American Hobbs Kessler spoiled Jake Wightman’s comeback race in the men’s 1500, opening up a gap with 350 meters to run and holding on for a 3:33.66 victory to Wightman’s 3:34.06. World champion Marco Arop gave the 1000m world record a scare, running 2:14.74 to dominate a quality field, while Elle St. Pierre almost broke the 8:25.05 American record in the 3,000 as she ran 8:25.25 and was pipped at the finish line by Jessica Hull, who netted an Aussie record of 8:24.93.

Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma (7:29.09) and Gudaf Tsegay (3:58.11) put up world leads in the men’s 3000 and women’s 1500 but came up well short of their own world records (which the pacing lights were set at).

Full compiled results are here and you can read WA’s full recap of the meet here, but below, our eight biggest takeaways from a great night of racing in front of a packed house at The TRACK at New Balance.

1) Hobbs Kessler takes down 2022 world champ Jake Wightman, says he views Yared Nuguse as his “ride” for a fast mile at Millrose, and wants to run World Indoors

Kevin Morris photo

One year to the day after running a disastrous 4:05.01 mile at the 2023 NBIGP, Hobbs Kessler opened his 2024 campaign in style. In the battle between the 2023 world road mile champion (Kessler) and 2022 world outdoor 1500 champion (Wightman), it was Kessler who came out on top, winning in a world-leading 3:33.66. That’s the second-best 1500 of Kessler’s career indoors or out and equivalent to a 3:50.79 mile. It’s also the third-fastest indoor 1500 by an American, although Americans run the mile much more often indoors (3:50.79 would rank Kessler #7 all-time indoors on the mile list). And just to be fair, it’s worth noting that the indoor American 1500 record belongs to Yared Nuguse, who split 3:33.22 en route to his 3:47.38 indoor mile at Millrose last year. Kessler said that was his target going in but was still pleased to get the win.

Kessler said he thinks he is in 3:31 shape right now. Using LetsRun’s favored 1.08 conversion, that equates to a 3:47 mile. That also happens to be the indoor world record (3:47.01), which Nuguse is targeting at the Wanamaker Mile in Millrose next week. Kessler is also in the race and hopes to use Nuguse to pull him to a fast time similar to how Jakob Ingebrigtsen pulled Nuguse to a 3:43 at Pre last year.

“I think he’s my ride,” Kessler said. “We’ll see how it goes. I think Yared is totally capable of it, but weird things happen in a race. We’ll see how the race goes, but I have the confidence to go with him.”

And in another piece of good news, Kessler said he plans to run USA Indoors and hopefully World Indoors in Glasgow. That sets the stage for a tremendous men’s 1500 at USAs in Albuquerque two weeks from now. America’s two best milers last year, Nuguse and Cole Hocker, are also committed, and only two men can make the team.

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2) Jake Wightman’s winless streak at the NBIGP continues

Today was Wightman’s first race since January 2023 after he missed the entire 2023 outdoor season with a foot injury. He felt good about how things had been going in training recently, but it is impossible to replicate the tactics and decision making of real races in training. 

That showed tonight. When Kessler made his big move with about 350 to go, Wightman let the gap open to eight or nine meters at the bell. In retrospect, that gap proved too big. Even though Wightman had the fastest last lap – a quick 26.36 – Kessler did not die as Wightman expected (he closed in 26.87) and Kessler earned a big win.

“I was hoping to be able to tick a lot of things off today: a win and the [3:33.50 Olympic] standard,” Wightman said. “I got neither. Not the best outcome for me but gotta start somewhere, haven’t we?”

Today’s race also extended an unfortunate streak for Wightman: in six years competing at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, he has never won.

Jake Wightman’s results at NBIGP

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2017: 3rd in mile
2018: 2nd in 1500
2020: 2nd in 1000
2021: 2nd in 1500
2022: 4th in 3000
2024: 2nd in 1500

All things considered, this was still a solid start. 3:34.07 with a big last lap shows Wightman is pretty fit, he just has to get back into the rhythm of racing after a long layoff. He will now head to Australia, where he will run a few more races to try to knock out the Olympic standard. 

We also asked Wightman about the trash talk between fellow global champions Josh Kerr and Jakob Ingebrigtsen that has dominated the headlines during the off-season. Wightman feels it is great for the sport, but don’t expect him to get involved anytime soon.

“You see boxing, the trash talk, whether it’s real or not, it’s great for publicity and great for getting people to watch,” Wightman said. “My personality is I’m not really like that, I’m very much relaxed and reserved. So if that’s an alter[nate] personality to the others, then I’ll fill that category.”

3) Noah Lyles was pumped to run 6.44, says he wants four gold medals or three world records in 2024

Kevin Morris photo

To see the 2022 world 100m champ Fred Kerley lined up right next to the 2023 world 100m champ Noah Lyles in the final of the men’s 60 was a real treat for the fans. When the biggest names don’t skip out on indoors or each other, the fans benefit (Side note: New Balance star Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone did not run this meet this year).

For the third year in a row, Lyles got the win and personal best at this meet. After winning his heat in 6.54, Lyles ran 6.44 to come from behind and take the 60m final at the line (previous pb of 6.51) over Jamaica’s Ackeem Blake, who ran 6.45. Kerley, who switched coaches from Alleyne Francique to Quincy Watts in the offseason, was running an indoor 60 for the first time in his life tonight, and won his prelim in 6.57. He improved on that in the final to 6.55 but that only placed him 4th.

Kerley wasn’t happy with the result and skipped out on post-race interviews.

Lyles, meanwhile, was overjoyed. Sprint biomechanist Ralph Mann, who periodically visits Lyles’ camp in Florida, came down recently to test his speed, and the numbers Lyles recorded were better than what he had done with Mann ahead of last year’s World Championships. Even still, Lyles did not expect 6.44.

“I knew I was in shape, but I didn’t know I was in that shape,” Lyles said.

Lyles’ rivals should be on alert. He has the best top-end speed in the world, but when he ran 100-meter races before last year, he had been too far back at 60 meters to consistently win them. 6.44 now puts Lyles in a tie for 11th on the all-time list at 60m. And if Lyles is in the lead at 60 meters outdoors, his rivals have no chance in a 100.

Lyles also said he will run the US championships in Albuquerque in two weeks with the plan of doing World Indoors as well if he makes the team.

“Last year, we went after three gold medals,” Lyles said. “This year, I want to go after four. Or if I don’t get four, we go after three world records.”

It’s rare for the reigning global champion in the 100 to run World Indoors the following year (though Marcell Jacobs did it in 2022, and he won the 60 in Belgrade). Only one man has ever won the World Indoor 60 and World Outdoor 100 in the same year (Maurice Greene in 1999) and no one has ever won the World Indoor 60 and Olympic 100 in the same year. But as long as things keep going smoothly, Lyles says he wants to do World Indoors because it’s the only team he has never made.

“I’m not changing my schedule for World Indoors,” Lyles said. “We run and we do indoors, and if it’s going well, we keep going. And if it’s not we go back and we just keep practicing.”

4) Elle St. Pierre is back and better than ever

Kevin Morris photo

Two years ago, Elle St. Pierre earned a 3000m silver medal at World Indoors. But come World Outdoors, she was only 11th in her semifinal and failed to make the final. Turns out there was a good reason: she was pregnant with her son Ivan, who arrived on March 4, 2023.

St. Pierre returned with a couple of road miles last fall but today was her first race on a track since July 2022 and it went extremely well: she ran 8:25.25 and missed Alicia Monson’s US 3,000m record by just .20 of a second.

St. Pierre was a little disappointed to miss the record by such a small margin but this was an 11-second pb (granted, her previous best was en route to a 2-mile) and St. Pierre was pleased with where she is at right now.

“I feel aerobically stronger than ever,” St. Pierre said. “I’ve felt good for a while and I just haven’t been able to put it together for a race.”

One thing St. Pierre will have to continue to work on is her kick. St. Pierre is good at grinding from the front, but she runs that way in part because she knows she is vulnerable to speed-based 1500 runners. St. Pierre did not do enough to shake Jessica Hull (who ran an Australian record of 8:24.93), and while St. Pierre’s 30.70 last lap was okay, Hull’s was better (30.34) and Hull was able to pull by for the win in the home straight.

Next up for St. Pierre: a showdown with Laura Muir in the Wanamaker Mile next weekend at Millrose. St. Pierre won that race in 2020 and 2022, setting an American record in the former race, but Muir, a two-time global outdoor medalist and defending Wanamaker champion, will be a formidable foe.

5) Grant Holloway remains unbeaten in 60mh for his life as Tia Jones impresses

One of the most amazing streaks in track & field history continued tonight as Grant Holloway remained undefeated for his life in the 60m hurdle race at the 42-inch barrier height (he did lose a 60m race at the lower 39-inch height in high school). Counting prelims, Holloway has now raced the 60m hurdles 57 times in his life in college and the pros and has crossed the finish line first 57 times. Truly remarkable as the tiniest mistake at the 60m distance will spell doom. Holloway ran 7.37 in the prelims and 7.35 in the final, which is tied for his fastest opener ever (he also ran 7.35 in 2021). Holloway’s WR is 7.29.

Holloway wasn’t the only athlete running fast in the 60 hurdles tonight. American Tia Jones came even closer to the WR than Holloway as the 23-year-old, who won world juniors in 2018, ran a big pb of 7.72 (previous pb of 7.80) to miss the world record by .04. Jones edged outdoor world record holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria, who ran an African record of 7.75 (previous pb of 7.77).

6) Marco Arop almost breaks the 1000m world record

A couple months ago, Arop’s agent John Regis asked him if he wanted to break Ayanleh Souleiman’s indoor 1000m world record of 2:14.20. Arop agreed to go after it in Boston and came very close, clocking 2:14.74 to move to #2 on the all-time world indoor list.

Arop dominated from gun to tape, winning by more than two seconds over a field that included 2022 World Indoor medalists Mariano Garcia and Bryce Hoppel. Arop said he will not race again indoors this season, but clearly he is very fit. His big goal in 2024 (apart from Olympic gold): run in the 1:41s. Only five men have ever done that (David Rudisha, Wilson Kipketer, Sebastian Coe, Nijel Amos, and Joaquim Cruz), but Arop, who is 25 and ran a pb of 1:42.85 in his last race of 2023, feels he is only getting better.

7) Lamecha Girma and Gudaf Tsegay’s WR attempts came up short, but both earned victories

Kevin Morris photo

Ethiopians Girma and Tsegay already owned the world records in their respective events this evening (7:23.81 in the 3000 for Girma, 3:53.09 in the 1500 for Tsegay) and both had requested the Wavelight system to be programmed for fast times tonight. Girma, who was targeting the WR, was actually ahead of the lights at 2k (4:58.44), but the lights had been programmed for a big negative split (4:58.44 is 7:27.66 pace) and Girma could not pick it up at the end, settling instead for a comfortable 7:29.09 victory.

While Girma was alone by the end, Tsegay had company in the form of 18-year-old Birke Haylom, who stuck on her for the entire race. But Haylom could never make the pass and Tsegay took the win in 3:58.11 as Haylom ran 3:58.43.

There were two world U20 records tonight, however. Haylom’s 3:58.43 took more than three seconds off the previous world U20 indoor record, while another Ethiopian, Melknat Wudu, ran 8:32.34 to break Tirunesh Dibaba‘s 20-year-old record in the 3000m. In fact, Wudu, Medina Eisa (8:32.35), and Senayet Getachew (8:32.49), all of whom are 19 or younger, all ran faster tonight than Dibaba’s old record of 8:33.56.

8) World Indoors in Glasgow could be very fun

With it being an Olympic year, a few stars have already said they will be bypassing World Indoors to focus on Paris in August. People will always watch the Olympics, but for the sport to grow, more meets need to matter. World Indoors is one of those meets that should be a bigger deal, and based on what we’ve heard so far, there could be some exciting events in Glasgow. Lyles said today he wants to run the 60 and world record holder Christian Coleman is planning on running that event as well. Grant Holloway, another world record holder, wants to do the 60 hurdles in Glasgow. And the men’s 1500 could be fun with Nuguse/Hocker/Kessler trying out for the US team and Josh Kerr potentially running on home soil.

Of course things could change over the next month, but LetsRun.com will be there to cover it and we hope to see as many stars competing as possible.

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